One month after Yasser Arafat’s death, realignments on both sides of the Palestinian-Israeli divide are raising fragile hopes for a mutual retreat from four years of fighting. The changes, which are being shadowed by renewed violence, include efforts by Prime Minister Ariel Sharon to forge a coalition with the Labor Party in Israel for pushing through his Gaza disengagement plan, and, in the occupied territories, the likely ascendancy of moderate Palestinian Liberation Organization chairman Mahmoud Abbas and a drop in support for militant Hamas. “Sharon wants to take a breather and the Palestinians want to take a breather so they will head to negotiations,” says Khader Abu Abarra, an analyst based in Beit Jala in the West Bank. “The two sides have exhaustion in common.” He says the fatigue and leadership changes will be enough for a resumption of talks and a period of calm of up to two years, although the two sides, he predicts, will prove unable to tackle the core issues of the conflict. Full Story
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